If you are thinking of expanding your business you may well be considering the Internet as a possible source of new customers, and with well over 60 million users there is no doubt that it offers enormous potential to all of us. But, despite its popularity, one frequently reads that only a handful of businesses are actually making a success of selling over the Net. Getting it right can mean very rich pickings but ignore a few basic rules at your peril.
The problem most of us face is that we simply don't know understand how to make the Net effective for us. I, for one, am confused and frustrated by the jargon that makes things far more complicated than I think they need to be. It just falls into the 'too hard to be bothered with' category. Consequently most of us seek help from someone, often anyone, who appears to know more about the Net than us.
And that's error number one. Just because they're fluent in Web jargon and are into computers doesn't mean they are going to attract new customers to us.
Rule 1. You rarely see anybody in a crowd, unless they are at the front.
On the Web if you don't know a site address you can use a search engine, type some key words, and it will filter out the relevant sites for you. However, as there are 800 million web sites, most requests will find over 100,000 sites of potential interest. Sounds impressive until you think about it. At 15 seconds each you can check 240 site descriptions in an hour, so it would take 416 hours (7 weeks) just to preview which sites to look at. In reality people don't look beyond the second screen so if you're not in the front 20 you're invisible.
Rule 2. We all skip the boring bits in search of something interesting.
The Net is a dynamic media. With so much choice viewers surf (flip from site to site) very rapidly, before they settle and get into the detail. Make sure your site, and particularly its front page, isn't dull or you could easily get flipped over in their pursuit of something which does grab their attention. A picture really is worth a thousand words, but beware: If it is too slow to load then it too will be dull.
The Net is ideal for craft businesses; as cottage industries we can talk direct to customers on a totally equal footing to even the biggest retailers.
One way to get noticed is to join a new collaborative site : The Internet Craft Fair. (www.craftfair.co.uk)
If you are thinking of going on the Net you should have a look at this new collaborative site, which has been created specially for our business by some craft enthusiasts at Loud-n-Clear. The idea behind it is simple, and addresses many of the points I raised earlier; in one place you will be able to find virtually anything to do with crafts. So for every Net user interested in what any of us do this will probably be the first site they'll look at. With over 2000 businesses listed on the site already, it covers a vast range of hand made products, materials, guilds, shows, publications, training courses, event organisers etc.
Naturally as the hub of British Crafts on the Net it is attracting a large number of visitors, expected to reach 100,000 visitors a month later this year, and this is increasing the response rate for those of us who have web pages on the Internet Craft Fair.
What is more if you enter "Craft fair UK", or even just "Craft UK", into most search engines it comes out right at the top of the listings. Often number one, of a million and more craft sites!
The format is neat and stylish, with an easy to follow path to the section of your choice: Enter the Hand-made Products Hall and pass through the Clothing Hall into the Silk Hall, where you find a long list of crafters who hand-make silk products. Each with a one line description and phone number.
Click on the underlined ones to see their ads or even catalogues. It is as simple as that for everything from woodworking to pottery.
Listings are free, colour page ads cost £85 per year and full catalogues start from around £500 in the first year, including the site creation, dropping to approx 60% (£300) in subsequent years.
Very interestingly their Catalogue sites are developed as databases so any changes and updates can be implemented cheaply, and in many cases, direct by the client.
For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 0118 967 7693